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A leader on and off the field, Yadav ’20 serves as chair of NAIA Association of Student-Athletes

A leader on and off the field, Yadav ’20 serves as chair of NAIA Association of Student-Athletes

Nishesh Yadav ’20

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, known as the NAIA, is comprised of 65,000 student-athletes, 250 schools, and 21 conferences. Doane University, a member of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), is one of those 250 schools.


With such a large number of student-athletes in the NAIA, the Association of Student-Athletes (ASA) was formed within the NAIA to serve as the voice of all NAIA student-athletes in the NAIA’s governance.


The ASA is a student-led group within the NAIA to provide a platform for student-athletes to discuss issues of concern, offer feedback to NAIA administration, and propose legislation or policy changes. The ASA is composed of one student-athlete from each conference and four members serving as the officers of the group.


This academic year, Nishesh Yadav ’20, a senior on Doane men’s soccer team, is serving as the Chair of the committee. In other words, Yadav serves as the voice of all 65,000 NAIA student-athletes, bridging the gap between NAIA administration and its student-athletes.


“It’s an honor to be the Chair of the ASA,” Yadav says. “When I first found out I would be the chair I was really excited. To essentially be representing 65,000-plus student-athletes is amazing.”


Just a few weeks ago, Yadav was in Kansas City for the NAIA Council of Presidents meeting, representing the ASA. The Council of Presidents consists of one college president from each conference and the NAIA President, Jim Carr. This is one of many examples of the leadership opportunities that serving as the chair of the ASA has provided Yadav. 


Another example was Yadav recently attending the annual fall GPAC meeting with Doane athletic director Matt Franzen ’94, who is quick to praise Yadav’s professionalism in that setting.


“Watching Nish interact with athletic directors and administrators, he is game ready for whatever the professional world brings for him,” Franzen says.


Yadav was first connected to the ASA through Doane’s Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT), in which he also serves as President of that group. Doane’s SALT is comprised of one student-athlete representative from each sport, in addition to a student working in sports medicine/athletic training.


The members of SALT serve as a bridge between their fellow teammates and the coaches and administration. If there is something the student-athletes would like to see implemented or changed at Doane, they bring that to the table at SALT, and then Yadav shares those thoughts with the appropriate coaches and/or athletic director.


While the majority of conferences in the NAIA have a conference-level Association of Student-Athletes, just this week the GPAC announced it would be forming its own ASA this academic year. Yadav will also serve as the chair of that committee.


In a press release from the GPAC, Cory Westra, GPAC Commissioner, said, “Much credit goes to Nishesh for the development of our GPAC ASA. He has worked very hard to bring this vision to reality for the league. He has been an outstanding leader for the NAIA and will play a key role for the GPAC as our ASA is developed.”


One of the largest changes the ASA at the national level implemented, which Yadav played a large role in, was the resolution of a mandatory day off policy. While it was ultimately voted on as a resolution, not a rule, it is strongly encouraged that NAIA teams across the country implement one mandatory day off every year, meaning there are no team obligations that day. No meetings, film, practice, or weight training. The ASA brought this to the NAIA administration on behalf of their peers, with the belief that too many students get burnt out from the demands of being a student-athlete, and having one day off for every player would be a welcome change.


“You don’t realize it until you’re in that role but the NAIA truly listens to the student-athletes,” Yadav says. “A lot of concerns that student-athletes have brought up were being listened to by the NAIA administration.”


Another initiative the ASA has been working on is a partnership between the NAIA and Special Olympics, which allows NAIA student-athletes to participate in any Special Olympics events, create their own events, or provide support to Special Olympics through different initiatives.


As chair of the NAIA ASA and now GPAC ASA, Yadav has created a great deal of exposure for Doane through these committees.


“I think more than anything, it legitimizes who we are,” Franzen says. “We might not benefit directly from many things, but in the eyes of the greater community of the NAIA, it legitimizes who we are as an institution. As the GPAC moves to their own ASA group, the schools that don’t have this model are using Doane’s SALT group as an example to shape their own school’s committee around.”


Academically, Yadav is an economics major who also has an internship in economic development with the Ashland Area Economic Development Corporation. Between his academic experiences at Doane University, his internship experience in Ashland, and his leadership opportunities as Chair of the ASA, Yadav has put himself in a great position to succeed after graduation.


“Whatever he chooses to do, he’ll be able to work well with a lot of different people,” Franzen says.